This reflection first appeared in the August issue of the “Deacon Update,” an e-mail newsletter from the denominational Deacon Ministry. For more deacon ministry resources, past copies of the “Deacon Update,” or to subscribe to the newsletter, go to www.brethren.org/deacons/resources.html :
A couple of months ago I took down the robins’ nest from behind the wreath on our front porch–a bittersweet moment, in spite of the nest’s auspicious beginnings.
Robins’ nests are messy things, and having birds that close to our front door just seemed like a bad idea. When the first nest started to take shape we promptly removed it. Within a few days a second nest appeared, and again we took it down. Then–we went out of town for a few days and returned to a fully formed nest, home to four eggs. We let it be.
Fast forward several weeks. My husband left for a walk early one morning and was greeted by an adolescent robin on the edge of the nest and a robin parent swooping in to keep the young one safe for her first flight. We lived through swoops and fledgling flights for a few days, and felt surprisingly sad when we became “empty nesters.” A far cry from the “birds are messy and don’t belong on our porch” days.
As I grew more attached to this little family I couldn’t help but see a similarity with how our feelings often evolve during ministry. A messy situation appears on our doorstep and we try our best to make it go away, but it’s there to stay and we try to find ways to help. But, you know, over time these untidy, needy gifts from God become part of our family. They begin to trust us, and we start to love them. Relationships develop.
An early issue of “Basin & Towel” (magazine of Congregational Life Ministries) was called “The Messy Issue: There Is No Mission Without the Mess.” People’s lives are messy, a lot messier than a few baby robins. But that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it, to help our sisters and brothers through the muddled, cluttered, confused times? There is satisfaction in that work, God’s work, and we may even miss it a little when the fledglings are able to be on their own, without quite so much support. But fear not, there is always a new, messy nest being built somewhere close to our front porch.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Enjoy the mess!
— Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry.